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Selina Banerjee’s Hindustani Manch Pravesh Captivates Hearts

Shuchita Rao

The purity and consistency in Selina Banerjee’s rich voice was the first thing that captivated the hearts of all who attended her debut vocal recital (Manch Pravesh) on Saturday, September 10 at the Dedham Middle School. Selina, daughter of Smt. Sucharita Banerjee and the late Shri. Pallab Banerjee is a senior at the prestigious Boston Latin Academy. She has been learning Hindustani classical music with Shri. Pradeep Shukla, founder of LearnQuest Academy since the tender age of six and is also proficient in Western music. Fidelity to shruti, systematic development of ragas through appealing khayal, thumri, tarana compositions and command over rhythm were the highlights of Selina’s three hour long debut performance.

The program started with a warm welcome to the audience consisting of family, friends and prominent members of the Indian American community. Selina began her recital with two traditional compositions by Sadarang (pen-name of Niyamat Khan, early 18th century court musician) in the evergreen raga Yaman.  In her first composition set to slow rhythmic cycle of twelve beats (ektaal), “Mera Man Baandh Leeno Re”, Selina created a serene atmosphere by building the raga from ground-up with structured alaaps (slow meditative movements) using words and aakaar and a reposeful perch on upper Sa note (taar shadaj). Increasing her pace after completing the antara section, she rendered bol-alaap and taans(fast melodic movements) with clarity and confidence. Shri Ravi Torvi on the harmonium, Shri Rajesh Pai on the tabla and Smt. Gargi Lahiri Roy  on the tanpura assisted the artist in a commendable manner. In the faster tempo drut khayal, “Aaj Bajaayee Kanhaa Baansuri”, pleasing musical variations of the mukhra(refrain) followed by well-constructed aakaar taans were rendered effortlessly.

The second raga to be rendered was melodious Desh. Cascading avrohi taans and the clever use of komal gandhaar note in the antara were the highlights of the khayal “Karam Kar Deeje” set to 16 beat cycle addha teentaal and yet another wonderful Sadarang composition “Meha re ban ban daar”. An evocative thumri in Bengali language “Piya bolo abhimaan” composed by the late Gyan Prakash Ghosh and popularized by the legendary vocalist, the late Begum Akhtar was the next offering.   Composed in the complex raga Piloo and set to the six beat cycle dadra taal, the composition had dual shades of gandhar, dhaivat and nishad notes which Selina juggled with complete ease. She also showed comfort with maintaining rhythm in the concluding fast laggi section of the thumri.

Post-intermission, Selina rendered two compositions in the raga Chandrakauns. “Deejo mohe daan” set to slow tempo 16 beat cycle teentaal was followed by “Sagun Sarup Nanda lal”  a faster tempo composition by the renowned vocalist Dr. Prabha Atre. A rhythmic tarana in the melodious raga Jaijaiwanti was followed by a popular composition in raga Basant “Phagwa brij dekhan ko chalo ri”  bringing Lord Krishna and the vibrant colors of spring in the land of Braj to the minds of the concert attendees. Selina concluded her recital with a devotional composition “Bhavaani Dayaani” in raga Bhairavi. A delicious gourmet dinner after the performance gave concert attendees a chance to mingle, converse and celebrate the debut musical performance.

Starting music lessons at the age of two from her mother Smt. Sucharita Banerjee, eleven years of training with Shri Pradeep Shukla has matured Selina’s voice and thinking beyond her years. It is to be noted that Selina’s maternal and paternal ancestors were musicians and artists. Her paternal grandfather Mr. Pranab Banerjee was a musician and lyricist at All India Radio in Kolkata, India for more than 50 years.  In 2014,  at the age of 13 years, Selina had released a professional CD album “Aayee Bahaar” as a tribute to her maternal great-grand father, the illustrious composer and singer, the late Shri Pankaj Mallick. Mullick along with R.C Boral is credited with introducing playback singing to the Indian cinema.  The CD album was released at the 2014 LearnQuest annual conference.

While Selina’s musical lineage is impressive, it is her sweet nature and deep humility despite her many talents that endear her to everyone around her. Judging from her outstanding performance in her debut recital (Manch Pravesh), it is clear that Selina has a very bright future in music.



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